Lumbar Fusion Linked to Improved Driver Reaction Time

Patients' driver reaction time after three months found better than preoperative driver reaction time
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The driver reaction time (DRT) in patients a week after lumbar fusion surgery is not significantly slower than their preoperative DRT, and after three months recovery their DRT may be faster than their preoperative DRT, according to a study in the Feb. 1 issue of Spine.

Michael C. Liebensteiner, M.D., of Innsbruck Medical University in Austria, and colleagues used a simulator to test the DRT of 21 patients one day before undergoing primary lumbar fusion, one day before hospital discharge, and three months after the surgery. The patients' severity of back pain was measured using visual analogue scales for usual pain (VAS-U) and pain during testing (VAS-T). The patients' DRT test data were compared to test data from 31 age-matched healthy controls.

In the patient group, the researchers found that the preoperative median DRT was 685 milliseconds, the postoperative median DRT was 728 milliseconds and the median DRT at the three month follow-up was 671 milliseconds, compared to the single reading median DRT of 487 milliseconds in the control group. The investigators noted a moderate to high correlation between the VAS back pain ratings and DRT.

"In conclusion, the present study showed no significantly increased DRT one week after lumbar spinal fusion. It appears safe to continue driving after discharge from the hospital following lumbar spinal fusion. DRT improved significantly from one week to three months after lumbar fusion, which is interpreted as a positive effect of the operation on driving ability," the authors write.

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